I call on the resting soul of Galileo—King of Night Vision! King of Insight!

This will catch you up: Last August I had an ache in my stomach (I don’t like the looks of the word stomachache) that I couldn’t fix. The nurse practitioner said, “It’s reflux.” I said, “It doesn’t feel like reflux.” She said, “Here. Take these reflux pills. In fact, take them for several months.” After four months I stopped taking them and went back to the office. I said, “I’m sort of wondering if this is a gallbladder thing.” Two weeks ago the nurse practitioner ordered an ultrasound and it showed my gallbladder acting all thick-headed and stoned. Ten days ago I met with a surgeon who five days ago (1/26) gifted me with a King of Pop nap right before he sucked my gallbladder out through my belly button (Billy Pancake for those who remember). My scars are gross and I’m sore and cranky and it’s all so boring, so let’s post a photo that shows the location of my scars (do NOT look under that tongue!), and then talk about how things could have been different.

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During the months of August, September, October, November, and December, I spent quite a bit of time lying on my back in the dark and thinking about what might be happening beneath my skin. (I don’t sleep well.) Obviously (obviously!), most of the scenes I pictured ended in my demise.

Here are a few things that I imagined were happening somewhere in my abdominal region:
Intestinal obstruction which will surely lead to sudden gastrointestinal death. (Apparently it happens a lot in Tunisia. I’ve never been, but I’ve also never taken a 23andMe test.)

Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus (GDV), which is that thing that happens to Great Danes when their stomachs flip and cut off blood flow to the pancreas, leading to the release of toxic hormones that immediately stop the heart. (The doctor who did my most recent colonoscopy told me that maneuvering his way through my intestines reminded him of driving on mountain switchbacks. That can’t be good.)

Stage 4 Cancer of Something Deep Inside, the diagnosis of which leads to my mailbox filling with recruitment materials from terrorist organizations and suddenly I’m making very poor decisions that involve trading lots of dollars for a suicide bomber jacket.

And my favorite:
Unbeknownst to me, an embryo somehow escaped from my uterus many years ago (not unlike a cow who refuses to take a ride to the abattoir!) and has been living parasitically off of my gallbladder for decades. Although tiny, he is also very fat due to a daffy duct feeding him the lipids that the gallbladder can’t break down. Because of a health insurance glitch, I have to take it upon myself to get some sort of imaging done to figure out what’s going on. An MRI is a very expensive test, so I find the cheapest option that still seems kind of on the up and up.

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“A fetal fuel filter?!” I cry as I attempt to go from lying on the floor to standing without looking too herky-jerky. (These bargain MRI joints rarely have sliding beds for the scans (the floors are mostly clean, though), and instead of operating MRI machines, the employees simply look you over while wearing swim goggles. No masks, gloves, or Merck Manuals in sight, but you really can’t beat the price. Two stars.)

Ace: Yep. A fetal fuel filter, also known in medical circles as a gallbladder sucker baby. Have a seat on that milk crate over there and I’ll draw a picture of your GSB so you can show your family what’s going on.

I sat down on the crate and watched Ace as he pulled a Sharpie from his back pocket and proceeded to draw a terrifying image on the back of a Jimmy John’s menu.

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Ace: Cute little fella, right?

Me: Fella?

Ace: The fugitive fetal fuel filters, also known in medical circles as gallbladder sucker babies? Always boys. 100%.

Me (suddenly feeling very protective of my GSB): I think I’ll name him Galileo. Leo for short. And now that I’ve named him, I think I love him. So, what’s the next step?

Ace: Well, there’s more than one answer to that question, pointing you in a crooked line. But if you’ve got a minute, I can get Todd in here to suck out your GSB. He’ll have you back on the road in about an hour.

Fast forward through the next 45 minutes during which I met Todd (he had a beard down to his knee), who gave me a (mostly clean, like the floor) sock (to bite for the pain, like they did during the Civil War when medical supplies ran low) before MacGyvering a plastic straw (not a turtle lover, that Todd) to a shop vac, jamming it into my belly button (Billy Pancake for those who remember), and removing Galileo (and my fritzed gallbladder!).

Todd: You can get up off the floor whenever you’re ready, and if you need a Band-Aid they’re over there in the cabinet. First one’s on the house. Give me five minutes to free the GSB from his host. Grab a doughnut if you’re hungry.

Five minutes later I heard a piercing cry coming my fugitive fetal fuel filter (also known in medical circles as my gallbladder sucker baby).

Todd: Done! As soon as you finish up that long john, you can take the little guy home. They don’t make car seats for GSBs, so just stick him in the glove box.

You guys.
Meet Leo.
(2021-D Lincoln shield penny added for scale)
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He’s featherbrained, unambitious, tiny (yet huge!), and I’m beginning to dislike him already.

Marconi Plays the Mamba.

This is a photo of me, and it looks like I’ve been drinking.

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Remember when we all looked super cute while drinking Natural Light? Because we did. We were all droopy-eyed and mini-skirted and dangly-earringed and let ’em say we’re crazy, I don’t care about that. Put your hand in my hand, baby, don’t ever look back.

Let’s just hodge podge this, okay? You know I haven’t been around and I know I haven’t been around. Why sing songs about it? (Other than Starship songs, I guess, which I’ve already done. Twice!)

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Pussy Riot. They are fearless and powerful, I saw them in November, and I wish I had a Fuck Putin t-shirt.

This’ll have to do, although the directive is much different.

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Here’s a question. Would YOU fuck Putin if you had absolutely zero doubt that it would unfuck the world? There are so many things in the world that need to be unfucked—globally, but also way over here on my couch where it looks like my belly button (Billy Pancake for those who remember) appears to be puking bruises. (More on that later. Maybe even tomorrow, because I’ve been in the mood to write.) Here. I’ll go first. I would hate it, but I would do it. I would do it for you and I would do it for the world. (Mostly Unrelated Fact: Prince refused to be part of We Are The World. I get it.)

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It’s just avocado and red onion and tomato and jalapeno with lime juice and some sour cream on top of a black bean quesadilla. Isn’t everything, really?

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Christmas was good. Not many people got a card from us, and that’s my fault because I’m lazy. (Lazy is not a bad thing.)
Me: Who should we put on our Christmas card this year?
Meredith: John Oliver.
Me: Okay!
(passage of time)
Harper: Wait. I thought it was going to be John Oliver and us. Not just John Oliver.
Me: Oh. That makes sense.

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Well! THIS sweater is coming along nicely! (I started it in 2018.) The pattern is called Petra, because God gave rock and roll to you.

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I’ve been etching glass. (Don’t let anyone tell you that it’s difficult.)

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Finally, I met Roz Chast. I shared a secret with a cat. Benjamin Gibbard needs me so much closer, and I just wish the people in front of me would have taken him seriously.

I wasn’t kidding about maybe being back tomorrow. I’m just a fetus drawing away from go time.

Fluid Pudding is a Virgo

On September 19, 2001, I was sitting at my desk in Nashville, Tennessee getting ready to proofread some back cover copy for a gardening publication. The small independent publishing house where I worked had recently been sold to Big Bible, and I really hated moving from my cozy upstairs office in the little house in Franklin to the huge smelly building where I sat in a cubicle across from a girl who was planning her wedding and was So Pissed that 9/11 might screw things up for the folks in New York who worked at the CASTLE where her wedding was being held. (Had my face frozen the way it was often positioned in those days, my eyes would be watching my brain and my mouth would be permanently agape in one of those “What the fuck?!” positions.)

I was also planning an out-of-town wedding at the time, and my planning (mostly carried out through phone calls) went a little more like this.


Me: Hello, Bevo Mill. I’d like to have my wedding reception at your place. Do you have any upstairs ballroom dates available sometime in the next six months?

Bevo Mill: Our basement is open on October 20th.

Me: October 20th in the basement. Perfect!


Me: I’d rather not be married in a church.

Everyone: But you sort of have to, because you have a family member who is the president of the church so it’s kind of a thing, plus: It’ll be cheap.

Me: Fine. Let’s just do this.


The carrot cake couldn’t be ordered without raisins because it was from a box mix. The pianist canceled two weeks before the wedding because he was in a car wreck during which he cracked his shoulder, broke several ribs, and got gasoline in his eyes. The dead deer heads couldn’t be removed from the walls of the Bevo Mill basement because they were bolted. We told the DJ to not play The Duck Dance or the Macarena. He played both! (Please know that I’m one of the most easy going people you’ll probably never meet. I’m not sure if you’re glue, but I’m definitely rubber. The main purpose of the day was to get married, and that we did. Aces.)

I’ve departed from the point of this post, but I think I need to ride this one out. Are you with me?

Fast forward to the wedding day, also known as the day the pastor told us that the photographer isn’t allowed inside the sanctuary, so all ‘walking down the aisle’ photos would have to be staged in the gathering hall. (At this point we were blind puppets dodging cans of beans in our formal wear.)

The pastor (who was told to NOT include the word Obey during ANY part of the ceremony), during the ceremony: Ephesians 5:24 tells us that wives should obey their husbands in everything, just as the church obeys Christ.

Me (in my head): Are you fucking kidding me right now?

Pastor: DANCE, MONKEYS, DANCE!

Towards the end of the ceremony the pastor asked us to touch our heads together (which seemed dangerous, as I was wearing a tiara because I was a pretty princess at age 31) so he could lay his preacher scarf (which I just learned is actually called a tippet) on top of us. This was NOT part of the rehearsal, and had the photographer actually been allowed to shoot inside the sanctuary, right here is where I would post a photo of us looking completely bewildered—like freshly broken wild horses. But instead, I will post the first song to the CD I was listening to in my car pretty much non-stop back then. Because it’s beautiful.


Back to September 19, 2001! Instead of proofing the copy, I decided to start an online diary (Have I told you that I was recently diagnosed with Significant Inattentive ADHD? It’s true!), and that’s when Fluid Pudding was born. 22 years ago today.

The first entry is here and it’s slop, and again: It was intended to be more of a diary than a blog. BUT, a few people bumped into it and then a few years later it grew a little and here we are. Because of this site I’ve been able to do some pretty amazing things. (Wait. Do any of you remember the time I got a bunch of death threats after I joked about eating like a shark at a fast food restaurant? That was weird.) Also, because of this site, I’ve been able to be in touch with some of my very favorite people. And that includes you.

In case you were wondering, the Rattlesnake Bit the Baby video (along with the video of me stuffing marshmallows into my mouth) is by far what most people mention when they talk to me about Fluid Pudding.

Thank you for being patient and hanging around.
I appreciate it more than you know.

Division of Construction and Memory

Two or eight years ago (time is wily) I visited Chicago and fell in love with many things (banh mi! the clock towers! how a Picasso can be a horse, a woman, and a place to sit!), but mostly with this:

Division of Construction and Memory

Street art nearly always makes me pause, but this particular piece made me stop and feel. So many stories in her eyes. The subtle shapes providing light to her skin. That scarf. (That scarf!) Have you ever wanted to invite a painting out for coffee? (I think she would go for a macchiato, and then we would sit and talk about the latest Colson Whitehead novel. She would agree that it felt a little scattered until the final third of the book, but when everything started coming together it was like, “Yep, here we go! Colson Whitehead has done it again!”)

When I returned home, I did a little research and learned that the artist is Erik T Burke. I also learned that he visited St. Louis in 2014, allowing himself 48 hours for street art activism in response to the murder of Michael Brown. Erik was selling art on his site, so I bought a print of The Act is the Whole Point of It. It’s hanging in our dining room, and when I look at it I can hear kids playing, bottles clinking as they hit the pavement, a distant siren… Can you smell the inside of the building? I think it smells like beef stew and wet newspapers. Maybe just a slight hint of your grandma’s perfume. It’s dismal. It’s hopeful. And so were/are we.

ErikBurkeTheAct(Image by Erik T Burke via eriktburke.com)

I kept going back to the photo of my blue lady for several weeks after returning home from Chicago, so I did what any knitter would do: I studied the photo and ordered a skein of yarn to match every color shown in the stripes of her scarf.

I’ve been working on this project off and on for the past two (or eight) years, and I love watching it grow.

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(A scarf knit on circular needs can be anything you want it to be, including a badass thigh-high leg warmer.)

Back in July when Tempe and I went to Chicago, I took the scarf (still not finished) so I could get a photo of it with the painting. On our way out of town, we drove down 16th street with the plan of parking the car, grabbing a quick photo, and then hitting the road.

We traveled up and down the street a few times, but I didn’t see the painting. I saw others that I recognized, but I didn’t see Her. When I started questioning if we were in the right area, I noticed this:

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It’s her ear. IT’S HER EAR, and it’s covered with graffiti. I can’t remember exactly what I said, but I think it sounded something like, “Ack! NO! Damnit! Shit!”

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I understand that street art is ephemeral, but I wasn’t prepared to see the woman who moved me so much (along with the rest of the mural) covered up with a gigantic MUNDO LIBRE. (And I suppose it IS a free world. But is it? (It’s not. Ask Neil Young.))

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Two months have passed, and I’m still allowing myself to feel bummed out. (And, yes. There are more lofty things for which to be bummed, but I can’t really concern myself with next year’s election just yet.) AND, just because the mural is covered doesn’t give me the right to suck at photo editing. Or does it?

Coulda

At least we existed at the same time.
And now I need to finish that scarf.

Herein lies a Mennonite, a weasel, and some (presumably) burnt frozen pizza, which I suppose is oxymoronic.

While watching the news this morning, I was surprised to see a colorful Death Matters mug sitting in front of the meteorologist. (1. If there are mugs in sight, they typically hold the station’s logo. 2. Death Matters? (Sure it does, and an exit plan is important, but still. Weird.)) After a short weather update, Antoine Stormcloud (let’s pretend that’s his name) held the mug up and said, “I want to thank our producer for giving me this mug today before the show. He knows I love this time of year.” What? Really: What?! I paused the television (because we live in a magical world) and walked the six steps required to put face to screen. Sweater Weather. The mug said Sweater Weather and I’ve been wearing the same glasses for three years now. Time to make a call.

Fluid Pudding is dusty and smells like Doritos and gin, and most of us haven’t played games over here in four months. BUT in 2038 I know I’m going to wonder if it’s true that I once stood in a room with a prisoner and a Mennonite. That’s when I’ll slowly hobble my way over to Fluid Pudding and: Yes! It is true, and it happened on September 11, 2023.

Here’s all the stuff I may want to remember:

Harper finished high school in January and then worked nearly full time as a barista until she officially graduated in June and then moved into her dorm in August. That sentence holds a lot of life stuff, and Harp handled every bit of it with intelligence, humor, and grace.

Everyone: Oh, man. You’re empty nesters now. HOW IS THE EMPTY NEST, EMPTY NESTERS WHO ARE EMPTY NESTING IN THE EMPTY NEST?!

Me: If we decided to live our lives according to sitcom tropes, I would be drinking wine from a jug as I sob and flip through old baby photos. BUT, I don’t drink wine, my meds don’t allow me to cry, and most of the girls’ baby photos were lost several years ago when our iMac crashed.

Here is a photo that loosely represents my life as an empty nester who is empty nesting:
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Back in June, Tempe and I went to prison. We also went to a Yayoi Kusama exhibit, a swoon-inducing pen store, a tiny Amélie-esque café, a museum of surgical science, and a really great neighborhood bar.
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The above scene took place at the bar, and it is the perfect example of why you should never send away the weasel. (Related: I saw Ani DiFranco last night, and during the show she said, “I’m at the age where if it’s a good story, that’s all that matters.” I’m sure Ani is not a weasel sender. (She also said, “I’ve never taken a poll.” and I giggled like an 11-year-old boy because Meredith’s friend had purchased a round of kamikaze shots for the table, Poll sounds like Pole, and I’m a lightweight.))

Kusama at WNDR!
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Joliet Prison! (We pronounced it HO-lee-yet, not because it’s correct, but because it’s funny.)

Rough Segue: SPEAKING of PRISON!
(Search Words for 2038 Me: Prisoner! Mennonite! (Also, Hi. Are you happy? If you made it this far but can’t do the math for whatever reason, you’re 68 now. And while we’re talking about math, did you ever figure out how to construct the equation about driving X mph until there are X miles to go? Also, do you still have that weird freckle on your leg?))
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It sounds dumb to say things like:

  • “He’ll be a great president because he’s reading a book about Reaganomics!”
  • “We captured the fugitive and then decided it would be really cool to take a group photo with him! Say CHEESE, motherfuckers!”
  • “Hopefully I’ll see you back here before another four months go by!”

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I want to ride to the ridge where the west commences and gaze at the moon till I lose my senses.

When you noticed that I updated my website today after not writing anything for nearly five months, you probably thought, “Yeah, this is going to be about Heather Armstrong.” Well, you’re wrong. (You’re not completely wrong. It was going to be about Heather, but singing another song about her isn’t going to help anyone. She’s dead and it’s horrible and I wish it wouldn’t have happened, but it did.)

The words you’re reading right now replaced the big long paragraph I wrote about starting Fluid Pudding in 2001. In that paragraph I said something about Heather’s site, and I even worked in a fuse-box/breaker-tripping metaphor that I hated almost immediately. (You would have hated it, too.) Anyway, it was a really bad paragraph. We’re all better off without it.

Here’s something.  My doctor put me on a quick run of amphetamines, and my God I love amphetamines. They make me feel less hungry, my focus is a spotlight instead of a swinging lantern, and I don’t have to pull over and nap at truck stops if I’m driving for more than 30 minutes. I’ll be taking the final pill early tomorrow morning. If you hear a strange sound at around 0600 CST, it’s just me singing “Someone’s crying, Lord, kumbaya…”

(You can ask questions about the amphetamines, but I’m probably not going to answer the questions.)

Here’s something else. Instead of knocking on our door, our HOA (three cranky old men with clipboards) reported us to The County a few weeks back because they think we need to paint our fence. (Our fence is a good fence in need of a little stain. It is not the dilapidated eyesore they are making it out to be. Ah, but good fences do not make good neighbors, Robert Frost. Only impeccable fences make good neighbors.) The County is now presenting us with documents and using words like Defendant and Citation and Fine (as in “pay this fine” and not “your fence is so fine”) and none of this would truly bother me, except look:

Fence

This photo, taken last week, shows me staining the fence. The second letter from The County (with our court date and fine total) arrived today. It was mailed two days ago. The HOA is not recognizing our efforts and I’m pissed and get off my lawn and everyone can go to hell, et cetera.

Maybe I’ll write again soon and maybe I’ll write again never. Regardless, it’s always good to see you.

2022. Three stars. Read all about it.

2022. Some really good things happened and some really bad things happened and it all worked out in the end, which is now.

Here are some of my 2022 things.

I bought a hand, so that was cool.
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I saw some amazing shows.
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I now have a sweet new cat grandson who I think looks like Will Ferrell.
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I got a few fresh tattoos, and they make me really happy.
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We went to New York, which was pretty amazing.
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I’m learning how to weave, and that’s super fun.
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I knit this great mitten and then I accidentally killed it, which was dreadful, but really? It’s just a mitten. Sure, I leaked a bunch of damnits and shits, but nobody got hurt.
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I also knit this sweater and it fits just right. Does that make up for the mitten? Of course not. Apples and lawn chairs.
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Alice said to buy these pants, so I did and they’re pretty great.
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I also bought a dress that’s covered in middle finger giving.
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I ate this pizza. It had sweet potatoes and cranberries on it, and it was so delicious. Praise Jesus for this Thanksgiving pizza.
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Using carving tools and ink, I made a few Christmas cards. If you didn’t get one, don’t be sad. More people are without than with.
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Some things aren’t pictured, and here are a few of those things:
1. I had to get a root canal and it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.

2. I had my meds changed a bunch of times and that was worse than I thought it would be.

3. I had covid and I’m not even going to capitalize it because it was shitty and horrible and I don’t capitalize vlad the impaler, either. ivan the terrible. putin. carol channing. kellogg’s raisin bran.

4. My Instagram account was hacked and Instagram won’t give it back to me, so I lost something like 1,000 photos.

5. I think I saw a dead octopus on the side of the road a few months ago, which probably didn’t really happen but in my mind it was fantastic.

6. I started going to yoga on Sunday evenings and it’s aaaahhhhhh. We always set an intention at the beginning of class, and every week mine is: I am here. (Just kidding. It’s “I’m rockin’ with Dokken.”) ((That was a joke. It really is “I am here.” I’m trying to be more mindful, but we don’t need to talk about that because Blech.))

7. Yesterday I bent over and hit my head on a chair, I still don’t like Reba McEntire, the best book I read this year was Harlem Shuffle, my album of the year is either the latest by Death Cab for Cutie or the latest by The Beths, I saw a dietician a few weeks back and that’s a whole other thing we could maybe talk about sometime, and I chose to end this list with 7 because they stand in the way of love and we will smoke them all with an intellect and a savoir faire. No one in the whole universe will ever compare.

Happy New Year. I’ll try to be back.

I voted for Michael Dukakis.

Did I vote today?
Of course I did.
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(Full Disclosure: I voted ALAN! DAN! BETHANY! JESSICA! TRUDY! YES! NO! NO! NO! NO! YES!)

((I had no idea the final YES! issue was on the ballot, but a sweet paramedic told me he would appreciate a YES!, so I gave him one. Always support the sweet paramedics. And the not-so-sweet ones, too.))

After voting, I started knitting a hat.

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If you look closely at the inside of my car, you’ll see a song by The Decemberists, my leg, a mask, and a snowcone invitation given to me by a five year old.

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Today’s Joy: As I stood in line to put my ballot in the box, the 18-year-old boy in front of me asked if I could help him. (He had never voted before and wasn’t sure how to put the ballot in the box.) I was like, “I’ll help you if and only if you voted ALAN! DAN! BETHANY! JESSICA! TRUDY! YES! NO! NO! NO! NO! YES! Otherwise, see you later, SUCKER!” (I’M KIDDING! And also, I saw the bumper stickers on the back of his truck so I can say with 100% certainty that he did NOT vote ALAN! DAN! BETHANY! JESSICA! TRUDY! YES! NO! NO! NO! NO! YES! I’d still hand him an umbrella if he was stuck in the rain. Most of us are doing our best.)

Yoga. Obama. Rushdie. Gray.

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A friend of mine is a yoga instructor, and on Sunday evenings she leads a Weekend Wind-Down class. It has become the 75 minutes that I look forward to during the week, because it’s 75 minutes of not thinking about work or how messy my house is or how I need to find a therapist or how it’s been months since I’ve had great sleep or how I can never think of the word Exploit. Tonight’s class was especially good because it began when the sun was up and ended when the sun was down and that felt sort of beautiful.

I’ve been working a lot lately, which means I haven’t been leaving the house very often, which means I really don’t have much to write about. Do you want to hear about my spreadsheets? No! Do you want to hear that it was ten years ago this evening that Obama was elected for his second term? Some of you definitely do NOT want to hear that, and to those people I say: Settle down and just think about the fact that 3,652 days and nights have passed since November 6, 2012. Ten years.

Five years ago I dressed like a different author every day during the month of November, and five years ago today I was Salman Rushdie, and now Salman Rushdie has lost an eye and the use of one of his hands because people are monsters.

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(One of my favorites was when I dressed like Spalding Gray.)


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I hope your weekend was a good one. I’ll try to be back tomorrow.